In a game dedicated to honoring the legendary Frank Kush, ASU (1-1) was steamrolled by the San Diego Aztecs (2-0) by a score of 30-20.
Coming off a victory against the New Mexico State Aggies where ASU’s biggest problem was defending against the pass, the Aztecs took it straight to the Sun Devils via senior running back Rashaad Penny.
Penny found his groove early with a 95-yard touchdown run up the middle after breaking two tackles. It was the third longest run in SDSU history. When the final whistle blew, the SDSU running back had 353 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns.
Senior defensive lineman Tashon Smallwood, who managed a mere half sack, said the defense lacked a fundamental skill: discipline.
“We missed assignments, being undisciplined on our keys, just little things,” Smallwood said. “Not getting off the field on third down and all of those things add up to a loss.”
Despite a monstrous game from Penny, the Sun Devils found ways to pressure the Aztecs’ junior quarterback Christian Chapman by sacking him four times. Senior devil backer Koron Crump was responsible for two sacks and six tackles
Offensively, redshirt junior quarterback Manny Wilkins lacked the precision he showed off just a week ago as he completed 20 of his 33 passes for 298 yards and two touchdowns.
“They were just loading the box, so we were taking shots down the field,” Wilkins said. “We got a couple (catches) and we had a couple (passes) that we just did not come down with.”
The near 300-yard performance is deceiving in the sense that Penny accumulated 11 more yards than ASU’s entire team.
Five of the 20 passes Wilkins threw were hauled in by sophomore standout receiver N’keal Harry, one which was a five-yard touchdown in the back of the end zone with 4:54 left in the first half.
Overall, ASU looked incompetent against the Aztecs defense. Weak offensive line play resulted in Wilkins getting sacked five times and a group of talented running backs barely running for 44 rush yards.
Head coach Todd Graham said his team was simply unable to find a spark.
“(We were) struggling offensively to get in a rhythm,” Graham said. “We’re supposed to be a run, play-action pass team and we’re not able to run the ball. We got some guys dinged early, obviously Demario (Richard) wasn’t available to play, then Kalen (Ballage) got dinged up.”
In the second game of the year, ASU’s performance was unsightly on all three levels. The offense got out worked, the defense was trampled and special teams forgot how to do their job.
A star shining bright throughout the embarrassing loss was junior defensive lineman JoJo Wicker.
Wicker only made four tackles, but each one seemed to replenish Sun Devil fans with hope. However, hope wasn’t enough to put an end to the destruction brought by Penny.
ASU will take a trip to Lubbock, Texas next week for a non-conference game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders (1-0) on Sept. 16.